ERIE, Pa. -- The wait is over.
Horse racing fans braved the rain Sunday to celebrate the season grand opening at Presque Isle Downs.
The first 500 adults to pass through the gates received free Smith’s Hot Dogs and t-shirts, and just as many children were gifted ice cream.
Some people caught up with friends.
"I like it. It's the easiest way to put it. I like coming up. A lot of people I know. A lot of friends," said Gary Potter of Erie. He said he has visited the track every race day for the past five years.
Fans were not the only ones excited to return.
"I've been coming here eight years, and I loved every minute of it. I loved the riding on the track," said Mario Pino, the tenth all-time winning jockey in North America.
Owner and horse trainer Tim Hamm said the track is an asset for the region.
"Add in the casino to it and all the jobs that the horse industry employs, as well as the casino--huge economic impact," he said.
"Racing helps everyone around here. It helps our farmers,” said Jennifer See, director of marketing at Presque Isle Downs & Casino. “It helps to hire additional people for the barns--not to mention the entertainment aspect of it."
The season run through October 5, 2017, including 100 days of live horse racing.
Sam Rossi, of Erie, calls the races “the most exciting two minutes in sports.”
He said, “Jockeys--I don’t think get enough credit for the athletes that they are."
Gates will open Monday, May 22 at 4:30 p.m. with a 5:25 p.m. post time.
The Tom Ridge Stakes, offering a purse of $100,000, is scheduled for Monday, May 22 at 7:05 p.m.